Sunday, November 16, 2008

I need your stories

Please. Today was an utter disaster, following a week of near disaster. Munchkin has woken up four of the last five nights, and only Mommy will do. She needs rocking she needs milk she hates the milk it's yucky she wants Daddy she hates doudou she needs a snuggle she needs milk noooooooo don't put me down I need onemoremintuesnuggle nooooooo. It's usually 45 minutes of her anger and sullenness and then I'm insomniac for an hour or two. I am, consequently, both exhausted and always already out of patience by the time the day starts.

She won't wear pants. Hell, she won't consent to having her soaking diaper removed, let alone replaced. She goes from passive nonresponse to our instructions to full-on kicking and screaming. She's whiny and demanding and noncompliant. She says hurtful and deliberately cruel things to her father, and hits him viciously. She completely disregards my requests and soon enough hurts herself and wails like a banshee ... for me. Her father is disgusted and demoralized, and I'm on the verge of snapping.

She won't put boots on, but won't say anything until the boot approaches her foot: then she arches and kicks and screams, suddenly, so that I don't even imagine it's coming when her skull cracks under my chin and her forearm bashes my glasses into my nose so hard tears smart in my eyes. I swear loudly and then I yell at her. I stomp away and slam a door: time out for Mommy.

She won't stop hitting her dad: won't let him do anything that isn't met with screaming and arching and flailing. He swears loudly and then yells at her: he stomps and slams, too.

These are not the parents we want to be. Right now, we're not too impressed with ourselves. In fact, "self-loathing" would pretty much sum up our parenting philosophy right now. She's just being two, right? Maybe it's that we are perforce sharing the work unequally: she won't let Pynchon do anything, and she won't let me take a breather. We're all exhausted. All our feelings are raw. You know, this weekend, we're always just waiting for it all to explode again, a mere minute or so away from some random rage event: hers, mine, Pynchon's.

Pynchon and I have nothing left to give her--in fact, we can barely manage to loft wan smiles of support at each other. So help me God if the cat so much as looks at me sideways, I may do her violence. This is where I'm at. I know Pynchon is not too far behind me either.

I am beyond tired. I am also angry. I'm actually really angry with my two-year old, even though I know that's not fair. I'm disgusted with myself. I'm desperate for the weekend to be over, so that we can bring her to daycare and have a chance to just reset. But I don't want to go to work because, it having been such a hellish week and all, and me not sleeping worth shit and being completely emotionally spent, I'm behind on everything.

What I want from you, if you can give it: tell me about your toddlers. Can they be awful? For days at a time? I want to know that Munchkin is being, actually, normal. I want to know that our usual parenting style--careful calm words, time outs, positive reinforcement for good behaviour, careful consequences for bad--will eventually work. I want to know that this will stop.

Because we're at our wits' end. We feel like awful parents with a kid we've somehow failed. It's really hard to live like this.


Assertagirl said...

Oh how I wish I had a story to relate or some words of wisdom for you. Instead I can only offer virtual hugs for all three of you.

Omaha Mama said...

My kids usually just have the short bouts, not days on end? Once B passed age 2 1/2 and I could somewhat reason with her, we used star/sticker charts for a few things. I'm all for bribery, if it helps a kid be motivated to behave appropriately. Also, I like children's books on topics that we're struggling with and I'm suddenly remembering a pack I bought from the book order when B was 3. It was a bunch of books about emotions and how to handle them. So yeah, we must've been there, if I was buying picture books on the topic. She's testing out all of those emotions, sounds like she's hit her thunderous threes a bit early! Stay consistent, it should surely pass. Right?
Also, both of my kids have been terrible to their dad at certain times. Not wanting him, not allowing him to do things. Maybe you should plan an evening out this week? So she can spend some 1:1 time with dad. Or he could take her on a date, we've started taking the kids separately on date nights, so they can have special time with just one parent. Maybe he could take her out to dinner one night this week (while you have a nap!). Hang in there ~ it always seems like certain phases will never pass, and then they do and you realize you've forgotten that you were ever worried.

SVT said...

Utterly unbearable but totally normal! I have an almost 3 year old and this year of two's has been trying. She has older twin sisters who are almost 5 and they are at an age where reason (bribery) will work. You just have to be consistent. Sounds cliche but it works. Eventually. I so feel for you. Sometimes what works for us, is to just leave her to her kicking and screaming for a while and then go back to her with open arms. She will almost always come to us for comfort and the tantrum subsides. One time, I was trying to get her dressed so I could get to work and she arched her back and flung herself backwards, head-first into the footboard of her bed. I felt like an awful mom, like I should have (could have??) prevented that. Whatever. She was fine. We survived. I'm sending you good vibes!

hoppytoddle said...

I would go in & tell her that you want to help her, but that she has to calm down. If she doesn't, leave the room. Come back in a little while & try again, but do not do as she says until she is civil. This may sound a little mean or judgemental, but by responding to her when she acts this way you are teaching her that acting this way gets your attention. I don't think you want to reinforce this behavior. She IS capable of calming herself down.

Please check this out:

This is the philosophy MiniMe's school used. It has worked wonders for us, both with her & in our marriage.

I'm sorry, Mimi. This DOES suck.

Yes, we went through this. I think we were better off because we used the same words that her caregivers at school used, so everything was consistent & she knew what to expect. Yes, consistency is the most important thing. You provide stability for her by being consistent. When she knows what to expect she feels more secure. YOU may feel like if you sneeze all of your hair will fall out, but it WILL end.

Kyla said...

Gosh, that sounds absolutely exhausting.

I got angry with KayTar last week. She vomited in our bed (the bed she and I have been sharing while she recovers, while Josh is exiled elsewhere) on PURPOSE after I just spent a half hour pumping food into her tummy. She was mad that she couldn't stay up and play the, VOMIT! (note to debaters, if logic doesn't work, try vomiting on your opponent!) We both lost that fight. She still went to bed, and I was up until 2am, washing and drying the comforter. I was also feeling a bit chafed from being the sole provider of her nutrition, it is like nursing again...every few hours, I'm feeding her. Josh doesn't want to do it until she's all healed up. He's a bit skittish. It isn't nearly the same as what you are up against, but I thought that perhaps a bit parental commiseration was in order.

Kids are exhausting and difficult, sometimes more than others. I hope someone has the perfect words of wisdom for you.

alejna said...

Oh, Mimi, I feel for you. That sounds exhausting.

We've been lucky enough to have only more limited stretches of tantrums, but I can totally relate to your reactions. I sometimes hear my voice and words coming out, and I don't like me. And happily I've been able to refrain from saying some of the meaner things that run through my head when Phoebe (who is 2 and a half) pushes my buttons.

I'm sure that it makes things worse that you are all sleep-deprived. She is probably exhausted, as well as the two of you.

I know this may sound completely wacky, but could there be something in her diet that is contributing to her recent moodiness? I've heard that food allergies can lead to irritability and tantrums in young children.

I also wonder about sensitivity to sugar. We had to stop giving Phoebe her Halloween candy because she would be bouncing off the walls at night, even after a small handful of M&Ms. (So instead we've been eating the candy, and as a result, I feel like total crap. I know that sugar affects my own moodiness.)

Kyla said...

PS: I didn't mean for that to come across as woe is me, in case is inadvertently did. Things are actually going swimmingly (that night notwithstanding) and I don't really mind the tethering because it is all going so well. But if I was feeling chafed from this little situation, I can imagine how much YOU must be feeling it, to be constantly clung to and then repaid in tantrums and tears so often. Hang in there.

Mimi said...

And hey! It's 3:53 am and here I am checking my comments -- guess why I'm awake?

Thanks so much, everyone: I'm honoured that you've all answered the call. Your stories are really helping me feel like not such a failure. (Kyla, your story was great--not woe-is-me at all. Now I'm relieved Munchkin doesn't vomit on purpose.)

Going to try to go back to sleep now.

cinnamon gurl said...

We've had these times with Swee'pea. I know well the "I want [whatever], NO, NO [whatever]." If it's in the middle of the night I make up rules. Like no changing socks or pyjamas until morning. Or no screaming in mommy and daddy's bed - if he wants to scream, he goes to his own room by himself. Sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes it does. Lately it's been working more often than not but there were weeks there when it really sucked.

If it's not in the middle of the night, like putting on boots, sometimes I just leave him until he comes down. Things have been a lot better lately - it was a few weeks ago that it was really bad. He uses more words and less screaming, and a few times he's actually calmed down. Until the next freakout...

Why don't you take a sick day to recover?

naomicatgirl said...

I have one of those. He turned 2 last month, but has been like this for several months.

He does not listen. He's DRAMATIC. He wants who he wants when he wants them, and if he gets someone else, he is unable to be consoled. He has been known to hit, pinch, bite, flail, scream. "I don't want you" has been screamed at me. "I throw you in garbage" has come out of his mouth more times then I can tell.

We are big on consistency, and giving him second chances.

I also work at finding his "currency". He's stubborn, so sometimes it's difficult.

I am not opposed to letting him scream/cry/have a fit if that's what he's decided he must do. (I've even videotaped him, on occasion, for posterity)

On the flip side, I have had the opportunity to teach him about empathy, and seeing if someone is okay (which, by the way, he now does - if I am hurt, he is the first one to come, hug me, ask me 'you okay mommy'? etc.)

By the way, he's my second.

It does get better. Honestly it does. For us, the more consistent and the more clear we are about consequences, the better things work.

Good luck!!

Cloud said...

What frustrating things toddlers are! We're just at the beginning of this phase (Pumpkin is 19 months), but we already have a lot of little tantrums when we say its time to leave the park, or get dressed for day care, or... well, just about anything, really. I never know what will be fine and what will set her off. And we've jut come out of a phase where every diaper change was a battle of wills. The only way to win, really, was to trick her into telling us the animal sounds.

Its like sometimes the entire family gets stuck in a really bad state, where we're all grumping at each other and nothing anyone does is right. The thing that helps reboot the family when we're going through a rough patch is for us to somehow find the energy/emotional reserves for a serious play session. You know- down on the floor, roughhousing, giggles, etc. We usually start by acting out whatever the issue du jour is. (There were some really surreal play sessions when Pumpkin was biting a lot....) We tried this out of desperation once, based on my recent reading of Playful Parenting (by Lawrence Cohen), and were surprised to find that it worked. But oh, sometimes it is soooo hard to find the energy to do it.

I second Cinnamon Gurl's suggestion of a sick day. You need to recharge!

Beck said...

Don't feel bad. All of us have had that weekend with our particular two year olds - they have their reputation FOR A REASON.

One thing that helps me is just to not take them seriously. I mean, she's TWO. While's she's being rather irritating right now (and I do have some ideas about dealing with the hitting - just email me!), she's still little more than a baby and what she's having is the more verbal equivalent of a baby's tantrum. It is NOT the measure of you as a parent, by any means.

One thing I'll say is that maybe you should ask at daycare if she's having conflict with any of the children - I know that one of my kids reacted a lot like your munchkin whenever he's stressed out at school.

Bea said...

Pie has been like this at times - I remember once in September when she was on her second knock-down-drag-out tantrum by 7:30 am (and she only woke up at 7). But I've recently started noticing the dawn of reasonableness - times when something she wants is physically unavailable and this ACTUALLY AFFECTS HER REACTION. Times when she opts to construct a rational argument and accept a rational response instead of going straight to the screaming. I think the turning point is somewhere around age three - they become capable of rational thought in addition to the sheer wilfulness.

No Mother Earth said...

We've had weeks when it's screaming and sulky defiance all the time. And if you've met the Boy (have you?) then you would know how out of character that is. I'm sure it's just a phase. The only thing to do is put your heads down and muddle on through.

Mad said...

It will pass. In the meantime, can you take her into bed with you and have Pynchon sleep elsewhere as a stop-gap, everyone-might-sleep-a-bit-more measure?

Cheryl said...

Gosh, sounds like a rough time Mimi. My two year old does wake me up and smack me during the night...(she still sleeps with me)she does the thing with the milk, she wants it and then she doesn't. She's # 3 so I don't really put too much energy into her crazy night fits. I've come to the point where I usually just roll over and pretend to go back to sleep and she realizes(i think) that mommy's not interested in the game and she puts her head back on the pillow and falls asleep, almost instantly.
My son used to have night terrors. That was beyond frustrating because he didn't even realize that he was up. The pediatrician told me that there was nothing I could do but stay away from I would. It was hard in the beginning but it did seem to work, he learned to soothe himself back to sleep. I wouldn't let him scream for more than five minutes though. It was really hard.
And as far as getting dressed, my two year old won't wear pants. And, she doesn't want me to zip up her jammies-so I don't make a big deal out of it, leave them unzipped and she eventually comes around telling me that she's cold and that I need to help her. Shoes? If she doesn't want shoes I just say "ok" I put them down and walk away...I do something else that needs to be done in order to get out of the house...I get my shoes and my purse and then usually she'll get her shoes and hand them to me and say "shoes on". It's a daily battle, that's for sure. What you're going through is so normal and I always, always wonder how the hell my mom had SIX of us!!! You've got a lot of support out here Mimi!!!